BATHING THE KITTEN OR CUB
While the kitten is on the bottle the face is not usually much of a mess to contend with. The stool and urine can soil the cub if it is not housed properly and this must be washed off regularly. If you ever intend to bathe an adult exotic feline for fleas or in the event of an accident involving something spilled onto the cat, the only chance you have of surviving the ordeal is to have regularly bathed him from a cub. Unless it is a life or death situation, we would never tranquilize an exotic cat for the purpose of a bath. As with anything early training will help you through a lifetime.
Before you begin the bath, gather all of your supplies and have them within easy reach for you and out of reach for the kitten as it will try to pull everything it sees into the water, including the curtains. Your check list should include:
Shampoo (tearless baby shampoo or medicated shampoo if needed)
Wash cloth, hand towel and several bath towels
Nail clippers and muzzle (if needed)
Hair drier and small wire cage
Soft brush, comb and flea comb
The room in which the bath is to be given should be 86 degrees or above.
Read the labels on any shampoo that you use to be sure that it is safe for kittens and at what age. Have your Veterinarian approve the shampoos first. Clip the nails and drop a few drops of mineral oil into each eye. Even though you will be using a tearless formula, water can sting and cat’s eyes are very sensitive so the extra precaution is helpful. Put a cotton ball in each ear to prevent excessive water from getting in the ear and causing a painful situation much like swimmer’s ear. Have all your tools plugged in and organized because once the bath has begun you are subject to have your hands quite full.
With very small kittens we prefer to use a big plastic bowl as a bathtub and for larger cubs we use the whole sink. The object is to fill some container with enough water to come up to your kitten’s neck without being so deep as to drown him. Fill the container with warm water and a cap full of shampoo. Support the kitten with one hand from under the belly, so that he cannot slip under the water and with the washcloth wet the kitten with the dilute bath soap water until the skin is thoroughly wet. If you can’t get a good lather up, then apply more shampoo directly to the cub and rub it in. If the cat has fleas, you should put a ring of soap around the kitten’s neck first as the fleas will run for the highest, and driest area of the cat and the soap will stun them long enough that you can comb them out and drown them. If you are bathing for fleas you will need to keep the soap on the kitten for at least five minutes, as is true for some medicated shampoos. If this is just a bath for cleanliness sake, then you can go ahead and rinse the kitten under warm tap water. The hand towel is for you to wipe your face with as you are probably covered in soap and water right now. Remove the cotton balls from the kitten’s ears.
The bath towel is to wrap the kitten in and to rub vigorously to remove all of the excess moisture before blow drying. After a couple dozen baths, depending on the cat’s personality, you may be able to lay him in your lap and blow dry with one hand and brush or comb with the other, but if you have not reached this happy state, then a wire cage can be of great assistance. The chest and the belly area are the hardest and yet most important areas to completely dry and a cage with a wire bottom that you can force air through will make this a much easier task. We use a low temperature and high force of air setting and an infant’s hairbrush to fluff the hair. Keep one of your hands near the point where the air meets the cat so that you can monitor the heat.
When an all over bath is not needed it is much better to just wash the areas that need it to minimize the possibility of chilling the kitten. Food and feces must be removed or else they will literally rot the fur and hide off the kitten making it susceptible to all manner of infection. If your cub is particularly messy and requiring frequent baths the skin may chafe and in such cases we wash with Avon’s Skin So Soft bath oil or a similar moisturizing shampoo. This leaves the fur sort of oily and scruffy looking, but the health of the skin is more important than the beauty of the cat. We have seriously considered shaving the long haired cats, such as Canadian and Siberian Lynxes during their weaning period because it takes longer to clean them up than it did to feed them.
Sweep up all of the fleas and flush them because many of them will only be stunned and may begin hopping away, and back on to the cat. Sherie, one of our volunteers is an expert at bathing kittens and her finished product is worth the wait, and usually wearing a bow. After the bath spend some quality time with the kitten, especially if this was a harrowing experience for him.